The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the present use of e-gaming in language acquisition along with its potential and challenges. We review the use of traditional, non-electronic games for language acquisition, provide a brief introduction of computer-assisted language learning (CALL), and examine the use of electronic games in language learning. Although there is limited research on the use of electronic games in language acquisition, potential exists for the integration of electronic games in language classrooms. In addition, more in-depth research is still needed in this field. For classroom practice, we provide a resource of online e-games for practitioners.
It is increasingly common to see young people spending time playing video games. Several researchers (Funk, Hagen, & Schimming, 1999; Squire, 2006; Williams, 2003) have noted that many youth today spend more time playing video games than reading, or watching TV or films. Thibodeaux’s study in 2001 showed that nearly 84% of children between the ages of 12 to 17 had a video game console, and 38% of them played video games for at least an hour every week (as cited in Jenkins, 2005, p. 48). The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in 2003 that 50% of U.S. children have played computer games by the time they are six years old (as cited in Jenkins, 2005, p. 48). Similar findings were reported in Jones’s survey of students at more than 20 U.S. colleges and universities in 2003, which indicated that all students had played a video, computer, or online game (collectively, electronic games) and that 65% of the students identified themselves as “regular or occasional” game players (as cited in Jenkins, 2005, p. 48). Facing students’ strong interests in and even addiction to these electronic games, many educators seek to understand games’ attractiveness. Many wonder if there are attributes of games that are beneficial to learning and consider ways in which games could be used for learning. Some scholars have challenged the traditional view that “games, as opposed to work, are unproductive and non-utilitarian” (Ang & Zaphiris, 2007, p. 448) and have attempted to explore the potential of games in education. For example, Gee (2005) maintains that good games incorporate learning principles supported by current research in cognitive science.
With the rising interest in using electronic games in education, electronic games may also have potential to impact the field of second language acquisition. In this chapter, we first elaborate on research using traditional (non-electronic) games in language acquisition. Next, we identify key findings from existing research in the intersection of electronic gaming and language acquisition. Finally, we explore implications for future research, policy, and practice.